Illegal and unregulated fishing in Seychelles impacting environment, economy, official says
File Photo was taken in October 2015 showing two vessels intercepted with sea cucumbers believed to have been fished from the Seychelles waters. (Joena Bonnelame, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) in the waters of Seychelles is contributing to economic losses and environmental impacts with big implications for the island nation said a local fisheries official.
“Considering that the Seychelles’ economy highly depends on industrial fisheries, IUU fishing can have direct impacts on the Seychelles' economy,” said Johnny Louys, a senior fisheries monitoring officer at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA).
Louys said, “A study done in 2005 suggested losses due to unreported fishing in Seychelles cost up to $7.5million per year.”
Although there have been limited studies on the effect of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing on the economy of Seychelles, Louys said that the consequences are evident.
Fisheries contribute to Seychelles’ economy through license fees collected, port landings and transshipment of catches, fuel, port and other essential services. It is also one of the main foreign exchange earning sectors for the economy of the island nation.
Louys said that in 2013 “the fisheries sector contributed to 35 percent of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).”
The sector also provides jobs to individuals involved in land based operation such as processing, export activities, net repairs, ship chandling and stevedoring among others.
What is Illegal Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing?
Louys said there is a misconception about IUU fishing and people think it “only relates to fishers or vessels that fishes within one’s own maritime jurisdiction without a valid permit, hence fishing illegally.”
Such activities can be done by the nationals of the coastal state or by a foreign fishing vessel said Louys.
Illegal fishing is defined as activities done without the permission of Seychelles, in contravention to the law of the country or in breach to the agreed conservation and management measures agreed upon and established.
“The most common form of illegal fishing, to which the term IUUis mostly attributed, is when foreign flagged vessels fish within the Seychelles EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) without a valid license or permit.”
As for Unreported fishing, it refers to the non-reporting or misreporting of fishing activities to the competent authority, in this case, the Seychelles Fishing Authority. Unregulated fishing involves vessels without nationality and flying the flag of a country not a party to a Regional Fisheries Management Organisations governing that fishing area.
Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing also has environmental impacts on the ecosystems.
“It is well understood that all fishing activities impact, to some extent, the marine ecosystem, especially the targeted stock, by catch species, and specific habitat,” said Louys.
He added that: “Most IUU fishing activities have little to no regards to efforts put in place to mitigate the impact of fishing, and the relevant conservation and management measure.”
It also causes not only added pressure to the fish resources and more harm to the marine environment but is also responsible for unsustainable fishing in coastal waters. This affects the fishing grounds ecosystems productivity, biodiversity and resilience, resulting in the decline in catch by local fishermen.
“This is one of the main concerns of fishers in the Seychelles, as they are concerned that IUU will affect their livelihood,” said the SFA officer.
IUU fishing targets all types of species and in recent years, there has been an increase observed in the illegal poaching of sea cucumber in the southern part of the Seychelles’ EEZ by Malagasy nationals.
Measures in place
The Seychelles Fishing Authority is monitoring fishing activities through reports and satellite surveillance and ensuring that there are proper legal frameworks in place.
The authority is the main agency mandated to ensure that Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing is deterred, prevented and eliminated in Seychelles, a 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
Regionally, there is an ongoing patrol programme -- the Regional Fisheries Monitoring Plan in the South Western Indian Ocean -- which seeks to reduce the number of vessels engaging in IUU fishing in the Indian Ocean area.
The patrol programme enforces national laws and regional fisheries management measures and supervises fisheries activities. It also promotes the sustainability of this economic sector through the pooling and sharing of existing capacities of coastal states in the region.
Louys believes that IUU should be given more importance in Seychelles’ Blue Economy initiative.